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BMW 330d M Sport with ConnectedDrive review

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Summary

Fancy a compact luxury car that doubles as a killer driving machine? Then look no further than BMW's iconic 3 Series. That's been the familiar refrain ever since BMW launched the Three way back in the 1970s. Time and again, competitors from rivals including Mercedes, Audi and Lexus have taken on Bavaria's finest only to eventually stagger away bloodied and punch drunk. The 3 Series is an extremely tough customer.

The same applies to the latest version, known internally at BMW as the E90 in saloon trim. Its lead over the competition might be slimmer than ever. But most agree if it's driving thrills you're after, the 3 Series remains the weapon of choice. For that you can thank BMW's ongoing attention to detail in areas such as weight distribution. Put simply, in a BMW everything is in the right place.

Of course, here at TR we're all about the technology and in this area the blue and white propeller hasn't always been quite so dominant. When it comes to technical innovations, historically speaking at least, it's actually arch rival Mercedes-Benz that tops the table. Everything from anti-lock brakes, seat-belt pre-tensioners, crumple zones and arguably even stability control first appeared in cars bearing the three-pointed star. More recently, Toyota has carved out a niche as the market leader in hybrid technology.

But that was then. Today, BMW doesn't just make some of the best driver's cars around. It's also pushing the envelope with technologies such as Efficient Dynamics, iDrive and ConnectedDrive. Whether it's fuel efficiency or digital systems, BMW is leading the way. To help us find out more, particularly regarding the funky new ConnectedDrive platform, BMW supplied us with an example of the latest facelifted 330d in M Sport guise.

The most obvious aspect of the E90's mid-life lift is a much needed visual buff. Subjective as styling is, there's little doubt the bland E90 is one of the weakest BMWs to come out of the "Bangle era", so called because of the controversial shift in design lead by BMW's recently departed design maestro, Chris Bangle.

While we'd hardly call the updated E90 a classic, BMW has done a solid job of tightening the car up with a few judicious updates. The added creases on the bonnet give the car palpably more surface tension, for example. Likewise, the new rear light clusters are a big improvement. They're far more distinctive than the cheap-looking sub-Korean castoffs fitted to the original model.

While a spot of panel beating may be what turns heads on the high street, it's actually new technology under the skin that makes the E90's overhaul significant. First up is a revised version of BMW's sometimes maligned iDrive infotainment system. Then there's ConnectedDrive, a new Internet-enabled subsystem within the iDrive platform. It's actually an umbrella for a wide range of loosely related services and functions where the common theme is some form of remote connectivity.

Key features include the ability to send messages and information directly to the car from any web-enabled device, a service that alerts emergency services in the event of a crash and automatically relays the location of the vehicle, in-car Google Search incorporating Google Maps and even a direct link to a dedicated call centre manned 24 hours a day by BMW flunkies keen to do your bidding.

Anyway, our 330d test car represents what you might call the state of the art in mainstream BMW motoring. The revised single-turbo six-pot diesel engine ups the ante to 245bhp and a slightly silly 383lb/ft of torque, while the six-speed automatic box adds a modern vibe courtesy of steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. The M Sport trim option fills out the car's stance with 18in wheels, bigger bumpers and uprated chassis settings. Inside, we have wall-to-wall leather, the full iDrive treatment and of course ConnectedDrive. Elsewhere, the car is maxxed out with an immense array of additional features including servotronic steering, electric seats and an intelligent dynamic stability control system. So specified, a 330d M Sport saloon is yours for a piffling £33,885. There's a lot to get through, so let's get cracking!

Steve

April 28, 2009, 1:16 pm

A hideously looking monstrosity of a car. BMW's of late look absolutely vile! And don't get me started on the X6....

Riyad

April 28, 2009, 5:44 pm

@Steve - You’ll get no argument from me, I think that the 3 Series saloon is an ugly beast. Although at least the rear light clusters on this facelift model aren’t as rank as the ones on the original. Of course my trusty coder Rich will argue to the death that the 3 Series saloon is stunning, but at least he’s otherwise sane.





Personally I just can’t believe how big the 3 Series is now. The 1 Series coupe is about the size that the E30 3 Series coupe was! There’s no denying that the technology that BMW is squeezing into its cars is pretty impressive though.

MarioM

April 28, 2009, 7:24 pm

Regarding Information Plus - I'm sure that Fiat had something like this about five or six years ago in the Stilo. Anybody remember? If you went for the satnav option and installed a simcard, you could press some sort of 'Help' button and be put through to a call centre where they could send e.g. a local hotel (or garage more like) to your Nav.


Or am I dreaming again? If not, it's surprising how long it takes for tech to make it's way through cars...

Chris

April 28, 2009, 10:27 pm

@Mario: Sounds like you're thinking of SmartNav. That's not particularly new or impressive technology and it's not confined to Fiat. It's not quite the same thing either. If you asked the SmartNav lady for the atomic weight of Boron, she'd probably hang up on you whereas a BMW lady would kindly oblige.


The closest I've heard of is the 'concierge' service that used to come with a VW Phaeton, although that was more for restaurant reservations, theatre tickets and the like.

ChrisC

April 28, 2009, 10:58 pm

I still think the previous generation 3 series looks far more 'premium' that the current version. The interiors have always been solid but at the same time looked a little old fashioned too, eg. the dials haven't changed much over the years. However, you just can't argue with the way they drive, they are all excellent cars (begrudgingly even the X5 & X6, for what they are), and the latest generation of diesel engines are in a league of their own, returning some amazing Co2 results alongside some serious performance figures.





Anyway, there has to be a point when all this tech gets distracting to the driver, but then seeing as we spend more and more time stuck in traffic jams, having lots of functionality might actually help preserve our sanity!!

Mark Peter

April 28, 2009, 11:49 pm

"open out the iDrive platform" - now there's a thought. It's one thing to brick your iphone with a dodgy app but messing up your traction control system opens up whole ranges of interesting possibilities...

Chris

April 29, 2009, 3:48 pm

@ChrisC: The facelift gives it a far more 'premium' look. The new creases in the bonnet lend some aggression and the new rear and light clusters are far more distinctive. The previous rear clusters were ripped straight from a Mitsubishi Charisma, the most inaptly named car in history.





Also, look out for some impressive new diesel engines from Mercedes and Jaguar. Merc's new 4-cyl C250 CDI does 0-60 in 7.1, returns 'over 50 mpg' and pumps out 138g/km CO2.

Jim Fulton

April 30, 2009, 1:31 am

I drive an 07 335d Coupe, with the earlier generation iDrive. I agree with a lot Jeremy says, I went for upgraded speakers and they make a big difference to the sound, much cheaper than the horrendously expensive Harmon Kardon option. As for the quoted range, you'll find that a bit optimistic. 600-650 miles, certainly, I manage around 500-550 in the 335d at a steady 75-80 on a long run.





Agree with Chris, the new Jaguar XF engine with the twin turbodiesel is getting great reviews, must be worth a look.

Rich 42c5

May 1, 2009, 7:53 pm

A stunning, stunning car. I'd hit it

rpmoore

July 27, 2010, 5:43 pm

Thanks for the great info on connected drive. I have just bought a new F10 5 series that includes the same system, and was looking for more in depth tech info that you described.





Overall it is a great system, I am just waiting until the third party hackers start on it so we get things like custom POI (speed cameras) for the NAV, video interface for iPod etc.

Newty

June 3, 2013, 10:39 am

Beautiful car man

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